How do you get kids to eat vegetables? We ask Hackney-based mum-of-two, Rachel Boyett, who makes colourful, exciting dishes for her toddler to share some recipes. Below are seven creative vegetarian meals for kids…
Rachel Boyett has a 22-month-old son, Felix, and an eight-week-old baby, Juniper. They live in Hackney, where she whips up these culinary delights for tea each day. Prepare to be impressed… (and to have some great vegetarian meal ideas for your little ones)
Vegetarian Meals for Kids #1
I like nothing better than a challenge to use up leftovers and these nuggets are a great way to use up leftover mashed potato (mashed sweet potato/pumpkin/butternut squash would work equally well, though you might need a little flour to get them to hold). You can add any veg you want to the mix – a great way to sneak in veg which are currently out of favour with your little ones. This was one of those rare experiments that just clicked with my toddler and he wolfed it down.
Method: mix the leftover mash with finely chopped/grated veg (I used broccoli, carrot, courgette and onion) and cheese. Use your hands to roll a heaped tablespoon of mixture into a nugget shape. Set out two bowls next to each other – have a beaten egg in one and breadcrumbs in another. Dip the nuggets first in the egg and then roll in breadcrumbs until coated. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes (or until golden).
I served them with homemade ketchup (recipe below) and yam chips (just sliced and roasted with olive oil) – any chips would be good with them though.
I think it’s hardwired in all toddlers to be obsessed with ketchup so this is a guilt-free alternative to using the real deal, which should hopefully be red and dippy enough to please….! Blend one largish tomato with 1/8 red pepper, 1 date, a splash of vinegar and a pinch of paprika. Cook down for 20minutes.
Vegetarian Meals for Kids #2
Spinach, leek and cheese flourless quiche
I got this idea from Pinterest and it’s so easy that it will definitely be incorporated into my usual repertoire. You could also make mini quiches in muffin tins (just add a couple of slices of sweet potato to the bottom). It had a distinctly unsuccessful maiden voyage with my toddler but the adults enjoyed it and I definitely think it pays to just keep offering foods (particularly ones where I know for a fact he enjoys all the components!). You could use any vegetable filling.
Method: Finely slice one sweet potato and line a dish with the slices (cover the bottom and sides and overlap the pieces). Fry off your veg for the filling in a little olive oil (I used one leek and a bag of spinach) and season. Spread the spinach mix onto the base and sprinkle over a handful of grated cheese. Whisk two or three eggs with around half a cup of milk (depending on the size of your dish) and pour over quiche. Brush the sweet potato crust that is sticking out with olive oil. Bake at 180c for 25-30 mins until cooked through.
Vegetarian Meals for Kids #3
One pot vegetarian chilli with quinoa
This is the kind of food I like to imagine us eating as a family. Healthy, simple and ticking loads of food group boxes. My toddler eats this sort of thing at nursery and much to my frustration he rarely even tries it at home. However I know he will eat the toppings (avocado, cheese and yogurt are some of his favourites) so it’s likely he’ll inadvertently eat some chilli and one day he might even decide he likes it.
Method: I tend to just chuck whatever veg are lurking in my fridge for the chilli – I love how versatile it is. Roughly, this was: half a red onion fried until soft, then add: 1 chopped portobello mushroom, 1 red pepper chopped, 1 carrot copped and fry off for a few moments.
I then added half a tin of baked beans (as they were in the fridge – however thishackneydad swears they are the secret to a good chilli), half a can of black beans (including the liquid), about a 1/3 of a jar of passata (or use a can of chopped tomatoes).
Then add around 1/3 cup quinoa (add more if you want it more grainy) and half a cup of water. Season with 1tsp ground cumin, 1/2tsp ground coriander and 1/2tsp smoked paprika (I used the hot stuff but you could add more if you wanted more heat or if you have milder paprika). Makes a family pot full.
Vegetarian Meals for Kids #4
Quick and easy mac n cheese
My boy will always eat pasta. I try not to give it to him too often as I don’t want him only eating pasta but it’s my go to food when he’s under the weather or just too exhausted for anything else. This isn’t really proper mac and cheese but it looks like it and the boy always finishes this off – plus it’s very quick and easy to make. You can use different vegetables for the sauce (I’ve used butternut squash, pumpkin, carrot, cauliflower and sweetcorn in various combinations and it’s always been a hit). I’ve also added extra protein such as toasted pinenuts, cannellini beans and other nuts. But you don’t need to do this at all, and it tastes just as good without (I just always like to add extra protein where I can).
The base sauce is: 1 carrot and an equal amount of butternut squash cubed and steamed (or use equivalent amounts of different veg). Blend the steamed veg with a heaped tbsp of cream cheese, a small handful each of grated cheese and toasted pinenuts (or any other protein boost of your choice). Add a little bit of the pasta cooking water – the sauce should be nice and thick. Add to cooked pasta shape of choice. Makes two toddler portions.
Vegetarian Meals for Kids #5
My mum would definitely say “life is too short to stuff a raspberry”, but I disagree (and the boy does too!). A very simple snack, breakfast or pudding. I got the idea from a post on @thefeedfeed and adapted it to be toddler friendly (and it’s a great way to add protein to a fruit snack).
These raspberries are stuffed with mascarpone, blueberries, almond butter and peanut butter. Any other nut butters would do, as would yogurt. I then chilled them in the fridge just before serving but this step isn’t really necessary.
Vegetarian Meals for Kids #6
Pancakes are a breakfast staple in our house. We have lots of different versions – I’ve used all sorts of flours, added fruit, and made savoury ones with spinach. The classic two ingredient pancake (2 eggs to one ripe banana whizzed up) are a great base for adding different ingredients such as oats, peanut butter, desiccated coconut, ground almonds, buckwheat, spelt flour, blueberries and so on (you might want to add milk if the extras make the mix too thick). I use coconut oil to fry them.
These particular ones were 2 eggs, 1 banana and coconut served with fruit, yogurt and crushed nuts. The boy generally goes crazy for pancakes and this morning was no exception.
Vegetarian Meals for Kids #7
Smoothie bowls or just smoothies are my favourite way of getting greens into the boy before 9am. A smoothie bowl turns a smoothie into a full breakfast when you top it with breakfast cereal and seeds.
This particular one was banana, apple, melon, kiwi and spinach topped with fruit, coconut and chia. Since I made this I have become a bit more conscious of giving the boy too much fruit (it is all sugar after all). So if I was making this now I would probably cut down the fruit in the smoothie and stick to cereal/protein (nuts or seeds) toppings. However, nothing makes you feel more virtuous than watching your toddler slurp down spinach first thing!
For more meal ideas, follow Rachel Boyett – This Hackney Mum – on Instagram: @thishackneymum